A cause of canonization begins in the Church when a
good part of God's people discover these attitudes personified in someone they
even knew before his or her death and who now helps them to live a better
Christian life. They also pray to this person and ask for his or her
intercession before God for their needs. Moreover, they think it is important
that this testimony reach many others who are distant in time and space, as it
will generate more life. Then a whole ecclesial process of gathering
information - with oral witnesses and written documents - can begin in the
diocese where the person died, to show his or her holiness. This, in the case
of someone who did not die "in hatred of the faith" - the faith or
virtues linked to it - i.e. a martyr. In the latter situation, a similar work
is carried out, with an emphasis on the circumstances of death, both on the
part of the victim and of the murderer. In both cases, a clear testimony of the
Gospel is detected, but in a particularly significant way in a martyrdom, so
frequent in the first centuries of Christianity and present throughout history.
On the basis of this exhaustive collection of data, it
is up to the institution that has asked the Church for the canonization to draw
up a written document in which the evidence indicating that the person could be
considered a saint is given in detail. This so-called Positio is studied and judged in the Vatican by the Congregation
for the Causes of Saints. If the cause goes ahead, the Pope will authorize a
declaration of virtue (Venerable,) beatification (Blessed) or canonization (Saint)
for this extraordinary Christian. A martyr will need one recognized miracle
through his intercession to become a saint, while a "confessor" will
The first two Jesuit
saints were Ignatius of Loyola and Francis Xavier, canonized in Rome on 12th
March 1622 along with Isidore the Laborer, Teresa of Avila and Philip Neri.
Today the Society of Jesus numbers 53 saints, 34 of them martyrs. Thanks to
these procedures, we are better acquainted throughout the world with such
diverse lives and personalities, each of them appealing to someone or other.
Since 400 years, the process towards canonization has changed somewhat, but the
path to sainthood remains the same.